Coming into the 2014 season, the Yankees lineup was pretty set in stone. The outfield is Brett Gardner in left, Jacoby Ellsbury in center, and Carlos Beltran in right field. Alfonso Soriano would man the everyday DH responsibilities, and Ichiro Suzuki was the odd man out.
Fast forward three days into the season. Soriano is 0-for-12 and Ichiro just went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs in his 2014 debut. Of course it is just one game, but Ichiro is showing that he’s not ready to ride off into the sunset as a willing bench jockey.
Soriano had a great year in 2013, finishing with 34 home runs and 101 RBI between the Cubs and Yankees. Ichiro was more modest, hitting .262 with 7 home runs in 520 at-bats in 2013. Soriano’s power is rare, especially at his age, but Ichiro is ready to step up if Soriano continues to slump now, or later in the season.
Ichiro is seen as a potential piece to trade if possible. As I mentioned, the Yankees have a full outfield and Ichiro will be a free agent next season. Unfortunately, his age and contract ($6.5 million for 2014) do not equate to interest across baseball. Unlike other sports, baseball contracts are guaranteed and there are few, if any, that would find a use for Ichiro at that price tag for just one season.
Ichiro should find himself back on the bench when the Yankees take on the Toronto Blue Jays in Masahiro Tanaka’s debut Friday night. Soriano is aware, though, that one of the best outfielders ever to play the game is just waiting for his chance to get back into a starting role one last time.